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Pacers' hot shooting does in Knicks, Brunson injury ended comeback as Indiana wins Game 7

2024 NBA Playoffs - Indiana Pacers v New York Knicks
2024 NBA Playoffs - Indiana Pacers v New York Knicks

Game 7s are notoriously low scoring — the combination of dialed-in defenses and nerves giving players T-Rex arms traditionally leads to grinding, low-scoring affairs with flashes of playmaking.

The Indiana Pacers disrupted that tradition from the opening tip and shot a record 67.1% for the game — the highest field goal percentage in any NBA playoff game ever. That’s not even getting to the 54.2% from 3 for the game. Indiana’s stars stepped up with Tyrese Haliburton scoring 26 and Pascal Siakam adding 20.

Even in the face of that shooting onslaught, it felt like the resilient Knicks would make their run — and then Jalen Brunson left the game in the third quarter with what was later diagnosed as a fractured left hand. That was the final nail in the coffin.

Indiana went on to win 130-109, taking the series 4-3.

The Pacers advance and will fly to Boston for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday night.

The Knicks’ season ends, but it was one of the best — if not the best — years the franchise has seen in a couple of decades. More than 50 wins and making the second round of the playoffs in the face of injuries, this team won over New York fans because of their grit and resolve.

Their luck just ran out — and the injuries caught up with them — on Sunday in Game 7.

OG Anunoby started the game and played the first five minutes, providing a spark and scoring five points, but he left the game not to return because his hamstring was not ready. Josh Hart gutted out 36 minutes with a strained abdomen, but he did not move the same way on Sunday.

From the opening tip, the Pacers simply couldn’t miss: They shot 29-of-38 (76.3%) in the first half, including hitting 8-of-12 from 3. Haliburton and Siakam combined for 31 points in the first half on 12-of-17 shooting. While some of that is shooting luck, the Pacers also destroyed the Knicks at the point of attack and moved the ball, which led to great looks.

There are a couple of ways to explain it. One is a glance at the Pacers' first-half shot chart.

pacersfirsthalf.jpg
pacersfirsthalf.jpg

Another way is to consider this stat: Jalen Brunson missed nine shots in the first half, the entire Pacers team missed nine shots in the first half. Indiana got the lead up to 22 at one point, but a mini-run by the Knicks cut the lead to 15 at the half, 70-55. The fact it was a victory for New York to get it that close at the break says everything you need to know about the first half.

New York started the second half on a 7-0 run thanks to pressure defense and getting to the rim, with a couple of 3s from Brunson and DiVincenzo adding to the tally. New York made a run and got the lead down to six, but after three straight Knicks turnovers, the lead was suddenly back up to 14. It wasn’t just the stars for Indiana stepping up, T.J. McConnell and Aaron Nesmith applied pressure that disrupted the Knicks offensive rhythm.

Then came the news that Brunson had fractured his left hand in the third quarter, and the dreams of a comeback died. New York tried, but without Brunson they did not have enough shot creation to make it work. DiVincenzo led the Knicks with 39 points and Alec Burks had 26 off the bench to help keep things close at times.

Indiana earned this win. The addition of Siakam near the trade deadline improved the team's defense and gave them another shot-creator in the halfcourt without messing with the team's style of play and chemistry. The Pacers came out in the biggest game of their season — and the biggest in a decade — since Paul George took them to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2014 — and played their best game. They earned this win. They earned the chance to face the Celtics.

But the Knicks should walk out of Madison Square Garden with their heads held high.